Sopore Custodial Killing

Greater Kashmir

SHRC awaits Chief Minister’s action into ‘this grave human rights violation’

Srinagar, Feb 6: Reminding Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of his promise to bring the accused in custodial killing of a Sopore youth in 2011 to justice, the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission on Wednesday asked the Director General of Police (DGP) to order a high level departmental enquiry against some senior police officers to ascertain their culpability in the incident.
SHRC had taken suo-moto cognizance of custodial killing of 28-year old Nazim Ahmad Shalla son of Abdul Rashid Shalla of Krankshivan Colony Sopore on July 30, 2011. The Commission has stated that some lower rung Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel were made “scapegoats” in the incident and castigated police for “failing to take action against some senior police officers” who despite being indicted for the custodial killing by a magisterial inquiry have not been made accused in the case.
The SHRC has now put the ball in the court of no less a person than Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who had on his micro-blogging site Tweeter promised action against the accused police officers and assured free and fair investigation into the matter. 
“The death of Anjum (Nazim) Rashid in police custody is a gross human rights violation and inexcusable. Things like this cannot be allowed to happen…I expect the police to do nothing less than make an example to those responsible so that nothing like this even happens again. Swift and exemplary action. No delays, no cover ups, no excuses. That is all I can promise and ensure…it is not enough, of that too I am aware,” Omar had tweeted in response to Nazim’s custodial killing.
Despite passing of nearly over a year since the incident, the family is still awaiting justice. “The recommendation so made will be completely in tune with the assurance and promise extended by Hon’ble CM,” SHRC member Javaid Kawoos observed in his order.  
Hearing the case, Kawoos perused all reports and evidences on record and termed Nazim’s custodial killing as a grave human rights violation.
“Actually, from all the reports including the report submitted by Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM Sopore who has held a detailed enquiry in the matter, it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that the subject Nazim Rashid Shalla alias Anjum was brutally tortured and subjected to third-degree during police custody as a result of which he lost his life during the intervening night of 30/31 July,” Kawoos observes in his order.
He states that FIR no 202 of 2011 stands registered in Police Station Sopore and final report has been filed before the court of competent jurisdiction against three persons.
However, the Commission maintains that some lower rung SOG personnel were made “scapegoats” in the incident.
“Regarding the culpability of the officers and officials who were involved in the custodial torture and death of the deceased, the reports show that a final reports stands already filed against three persons. But I feel that the observation made by the SDM Sopore in his Magisterial enquiry to the effect that ‘it is a severe administrative lapse on part of the officers who being at the helm of affairs to let the matter of such super sensitivity to sprout at their own, at the mercy of irresponsible, delinquent, non-professional police personnel’ is a matter of concern which has not been addressed to,” Kawoos observes in the order. 
“Actually, I feel that some lower rung SOG personnel have been made scapegoats in the incident because the investigating officer of FIR no 202/2011 Police Station Sopore has not perhaps dared to touch the higher officers who by their intentional omission and commission have contributed and are directly responsible for death of the deceased,” the report states.
The SHRC member further observed that, “after going through the Magisterial enquiry report of SDM Sopore, it is clear higher officers Muhammad Altaf Khan of the rank of SP Police Division Sopore, Aashiq Hussain Tak Dy.SP (operations) SOG Sopore, Iftikhar Talib Dy.SP (ECU) Cargo Srinagar, Dilraj Singh SI SOG, DySP, LO SOG Sopore Janak Raj, HC no. 708 Guard Commander, SOG-Sopore Escort on duty with Dy.SP Ashiq,  SOG Sopore except Nisar have interrogated and tortured Nazim Rashid Shalla in Police Custody which resulted in his death.” 
“The enquiry report shows that Muhammad Abass Sg.constable 245/Spr I/C Escort of Dy.SP Ashiq Hussain have clearly stated that the deceased was tortured by him as also by Dy.SPs Iftikhar Talib, Choudhary Iftikhar and even by Aashiq Hussain. Though Altaf Ahmad Khan, SP, Iftikhar Talib, Dy.SPs Iftikhar Talib, Choudhary Iftikhar and Aashiq Hussain in their respective statements have not directly endorsed the fact of torturing or interrogating the subject personally, but the enquiry officer SDM Sopore, in his poetic English, has held all these persons including one Digvijay Singh Major (I/C 52-RR Amargarh) responsible ‘to cause the deceased to sip the destiny in drops and the final drop proved fatal,’ the member observed.
Kawoos observed that, “even otherwise all these officers who have admitted to have seen the deceased under the SOG custody have by their omission directly contributed to the death of the deceased as they appeal to have failed to protect life of a person who was admittedly in their custody. So if not directly, by their omission they have contributed to the custodial killing of the subject.”
“It is evident that the investigating officer has not dared to touch all these high officials and by intentional faulty investigation has made the three lower rung officials scapegoats who have been forwarded to the Court to face the trial,” the member observed.
“Had the case not been sub-judice before the competent court of jurisdiction, I would have definitely recommended further investigation under section 173 (8) CrPC by an officer of the rank of DIG of repute. But the reason the case being sub-judice, my hands to the extent are tied because not it is the prerogative of the honble’ High Court to pass such orders.” 
“However, in so far as the functions and powers of the Commission under Chapter III of J &K Protection of Human Rights Act 1997, this being a clear cut case of grave human rights violations, I directed Muzaffar Ahmad Padroo, administrative officer of the Commission to instruct Shafat Mir standing counsel SHRC to move the Hon’ble Court under section 13 (b) of the Act and seek leave to intervene in the proceedings. And if leave in granted the Hon’ble Court be requested by a proper application to get the case further investigation under section 173 (8) CrPC so that the matter is properly and fairly investigated,” he observed.
Observing that till the request of the Commission to intervene and seek further investigation of the case by the concerned Court is entertained, the member recommended to the DGP to initiate a high level departmental enquiry against all the aforementioned officers “for locating their culpability by their acts of omission and commission which resulted in the death of the subject Nazim Shalla under intimation to this Commission.”
“If, on enquiry, all or any of these officers are found responsible in any way for the death of the subject, it is further recommended that under section 19 (1) of the Act, proceedings be initiated for prosecution of the Investigating officers who had investigated the said FIR no 202/2011 Police Station Sopore not in a just and fair manner which resulted in violation of human rights,” the Commission observed. 
The Commission also came down heavily on district administration Baramulla for resorting to inordinate delay in extending compensatory benefits to family of the victim Nazir Rashid Shalla despite acknowledgement of his custodial killing by a magisterial probe.
The Commission recommended the State Government to sanction ex-gratia relief of one lakh rupees in favour of next of kins of the deceased and benefit of SRO-43 to its eligible member.